To the Government of Indonesia
To the President
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been inconsistent at best in defending the right to religious freedom. The absence of leadership has emboldened groups willing to use violence against religious minorities and the local and national officials who cater to them. Indonesia’s constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion and decentralization laws leave authority over religious freedom with the central government. What is most needed is the political will to wield that authority. Despite occasional positive rhetoric, however, President Yudhoyono has responded weakly to growing intolerance and acts of violence against religious minorities, has not insisted firmly that national laws be enforced, and has often been unwilling to use his powers as president to see that the laws be enforced.
The president has most often deferred to others when pressed to address attacks on religious minorities. Too often, he has turned a blind eye to hardline groups that engage in such attacks and has said little publicly when other government leaders, notably the minister of religion, make discriminatory statements that fuel such antagonism. Statements of support and appearances by officials at events sponsored by the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI), which has engaged in repeated acts of violent vigilantism, is a case in point. The result is that religious conflicts and targeting of minority religious groups have worsened over time. And several local officials, whether reflecting their own views or those of important electoral constituencies, have refused to enforce rulings of Indonesia’s highest courts.
More decisive leadership is urgently needed. Human Rights Watch supports the call for President Yudhoyono to work with parliament to devise and implement a national strategy on religious tolerance and religious freedom. The effort should be led by an independent national taskforce composed of experts and politically influential individuals committed to religious freedom and not beholden to the existing Ministry of Religious Affairs hierarchy. The task force should be given a strong mandate and produce a concrete plan of action. Key elements of such a plan of action should include:
- Zero tolerance for attacks on religious minorities. Every attack on religious minority communities should be prosecuted.
- Active measures against local officials who fail to respect court judgments guaranteeing religious freedom, including construction of houses of worship. The task force and President Yudhoyono should work to ensure that obstruction of justice is made grounds for suspending local officials from public office when new local government laws are being drafted, and should press parliament to pass specific contempt of court legislation.
- Review of existing laws, regulations, and decrees on religion to identify provisions at odds with freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, followed by a timetable for revision or repeal of offending provisions.
- National outreach on basic principles of religious freedom and religious tolerance, including education programs disseminated through government media and schools, and stronger policies and responses to incitement to violence targeting religious minorities, including greater clarity on when freedom of expression crosses the line into incitement to criminal violence.
Even before a taskforce is convened and a national strategy on religious freedom and religious tolerance is adopted, President Yudhoyono should:
- Seek to amend or revoke regulations that discriminate against religious minorities or exacerbate intolerance in Indonesia, including the 1965 blasphemy law, the ministerial decrees on building houses of worship, and the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree.
- Take immediate disciplinary action against all government officials, including the minister of religious affairs, who make statements or engage in actions that promote religious discrimination.
- Seek criminal prosecution of government officials who incite violence against religious or other minorities.
- Use existing presidential powers, including over allocation of central government funding to local governments, to sanction local officials who defy the courts.
- Review and restructure the functions of the Ministry of Religious Affairs to ensure better representation of the hundreds of religions and beliefs in Indonesia and the promotion of meaningful inter-faith dialogue and inter-religious education. The latter should begin with frank acknowledgment of divisive issues and work toward their resolution.
- Direct all national and local officials to abide by court rulings and to allow the construction of churches and other houses of worship that have met the administrative criteria under current law.
- Take immediate steps to sanction government officials who refuse to permit the construction of houses of worships, including GKI Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia churches.
To the House of Representatives
- Remove the Religious Harmony Bill from the list of bills to be deliberated. Rather than providing safeguards for religious freedom, the bill would provide a stronger legal basis for ministerial decrees that harm rights of religious minorities.
- Amend or revoke laws that discriminate against religious minorities or exacerbate intolerance in Indonesia, including the 1965 blasphemy law.
To the National Police
- Conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations to discipline and, where appropriate, prosecute police officers, regardless of rank, implicated in violence against religious minorities or who aid and abet militant groups in unlawful acts.
- Ensure that police units in areas where extremists target religious minorities with threats or actual physical violence have an adequate number of trained equipped personnel to prevent possible violence and to intervene in a timely manner when violence occurs to reduce deaths and casualties.
- Prohibit any official endorsements of groups linked to the advocacy and use of violence against religious minorities, and prohibit joint police action with such groups in “anti-vice” campaigns and related initiatives.
- Adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to acts of vandalism and other crimes against religious structures and the people who worship in them.
- Provide prompt and adequate reparations to victims of violence in which security forces are direct participants, aid and abet abuses by militant groups, or fail to take available measures to prevent or end the violence.
- Issue a directive to police to act fully impartially in religious disputes, including by not signing documents on religion that would call their impartiality into question or entail coercive action against religious minorities.
- Reprimand police officers who sign petitions that bring their impartiality to conduct police work into question.
- Expand on initiatives such as the cooperation between the National Police and Kontras in developing a police manual on dealing with violence against religious groups.
- Conduct trainings for officers on the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, and Indonesia’s Police Regulation on the Use of Force (No. 01/2009) and stipulate strict penalties for officers who violate or ignore these standards.
To the Ministry of Religious Affairs
- Commission an independent study to examine possible restructuring of the ministry so that it better represents the hundreds of religions and beliefs practiced in Indonesia, instead of limiting itself to the six religions officially protected under the 1965 blasphemy law.
- Send a directive to all governors, mayors, and regents to ensure that local FKUB offices act independently and impartially. Ensure that any members of FKUB found to be using their position to discriminate against minority religious groups are removed from their positions.
To the Ministry of Home Affairs
- Adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to civil servants who passively or actively practice, tolerate, or encourage acts of discrimination, threats, or physical violence against religious minorities.
- Create an office to receive public complaints of discrimination by civil servants against individuals from minority religions and set up an internal mechanism so that civil servants can report acts of discrimination by other civil servants. Create a transparent mechanism to investigate those complaints and reports, and ensure that they are addressed and appropriate action is taken in a timely manner.
- Ensure that the Bekasi regent and Bogor mayor implement the Supreme Court verdicts on HKBP Filadelfia and GKI Yasmin.
To the United States, European Union Member States, Australia, Japan, and other Concerned Governments
- Publicly and privately press the Indonesian government to respect the right to religious freedom and other basic human rights, including by amending or repealing discriminatory laws and policies, and investigating and prosecuting threats, harassment, and attacks on religious minorities.
- Urge the Indonesian government to invite the UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief to visit.
- Use Jakarta-based diplomats to monitor incidents of discrimination or violence against religious minorities as well as trials affecting the right to freedom of religion, especially in Java and Sumatra.
- Vet all programs that provide training to government officials to ensure that participants have not been implicated or complicit in religion-based violence or other serious human rights abuses.
- Take necessary measures to ensure that programs in Indonesia funded directly or through the Asian Development Bank or other multilateral development banks, including support for madrasahs, do not promote or facilitate discrimination or violence on the basis of religion.
 Ibid., p. 18.
 For a description of powers currently available to the president, see International Crisis Group, “Indonesia: Defying the State, Asia Briefing no. 138,” August 30, 2012, p. 18.
 In June 2009, Amnesty International published a number of recommendations on the Indonesian National Police, a number of which are relevant to addressing religion-based violence. See Amnesty International, “Unfinished Business: Police Accountability In Indonesia,” June 24, 2009.